This post comes to you from a different country! Work has seen me move out to California for ten weeks, leaving the rest of the family at home to guard the fort. ( I have left my boken by the front door, I hope they know how to use it.)
Being someone who loves my martial arts I refused to let a minor thing like being in another part of the world to prevent me from training. And training in Aikido has continued.
Why Aikido? Why not use it as a chance to pick up my Jiu Jitsu once more? It comes down to consistency of style. The British Aikido Federation, whom I train with, is affiliated to the Aikiki Hombu Dojo in Japan. As is the dojo I have started attending in California. This means that there is a central point for maintaining standards. Of course the styles wont be the same, that’s impossible. What it does mean is that they are broadly similar in their aims and techniques and I will not be left with the feeling of starting from scratch. Again.
Now if I were to take up Jiu Jitsu while I was in California it would be another matter. The very nature of Jiu Jitsu means that the style varies considerably. The organisation I am a member of is based solely in the UK. There is some international exchange, but it is limited.
This is where global organisations win. I am not knocking the people that run solitary dojos. I am not knocking the small organisations. What I am saying is that in modern times people move. They move around their own country and they emigrate. The result is a selection of people who may adore the style they have started out in, but because they have not progressed far enough to set up their own dojo it means when they move you have lost a student.
There are additional advantages to the larger organisation. Visiting teachers, outside seminars and training with new people. New teachers may be able to explain a technique in different way which increases your understanding. A seminar increases the knowledge of teachers and students. Training with different people allows you to see how effective you are against an unknown assailant.
On a purely practical level matters like insurance become cheaper when block purchased through a larger organisation.
Yes, there are pitfalls of national or international groups. You may become confused or disheartened by conflicting teaching. Individual dojos may feel the martial art is not being encouraged to develop in the way they feel is right. (If this is the case do some research, find out if others feel the same and present your views honestly to the committee.) People may feel they are paying money to some grand headquarters that they have never been to and are never likely to.
Individual experience will dictate how you feel on large vs solo martial art schools. For me, right now, international groups win.